Sunday, November 03, 2019

My first car was an electric one

(My Eastern New Mexico News column for October 2, 2019)




You may find it hard to believe, but my first car was an electric car. Nothing so fancy as a Tesla, though. It was a 1975 Sebring-Vanguard Citicar. That's us in the photograph, in the spring of 1980, looking nerdy.



At school and around the neighborhood my car was known as "The Nuke".

Why such an odd nickname? Because it sported a bumper sticker which said something to the effect of "One nuke plant saves enough oil for X-thousand cars"; I don't remember the exact wording or specific number.

Maybe it seems strange for someone who would put up with the inconveniences of a 1970s electric car, partly for environmental reasons, to also be promoting nuclear energy.

I've been mostly pro-nuclear since I was a teenager. It seems better to me than the other realistic alternatives. My biggest objection stems from being against government subsidies for nuclear energy, as I am for anything. To be viable in the long term, nuclear energy needs to sustain itself without the millstone of "government assistance" around its neck.

I'm also concerned about how the waste materials are dealt with, but I think it's a solvable problem. The federal government has threatened, for decades, to use nearby Deaf Smith county as a nuclear dump because of it's low population density, remoteness, and geological stability. I'm ambivalent about this idea, especially because I'm not sure it's a good idea to store nuclear waste so far from the source-- which means it has to be shipped across the country-- or to store it over America's most important aquifer. Science, rather than politics, should be used to decide.

I'm also in favor of wind and solar power; I have solar panels for charging my phone and rechargeable batteries. There's a place for it all, including coal and petroleum.

There's no energy source which is without environmental impact. Waste and toxins are produced in manufacturing solar panels and wind generators, plus the huge amounts of land such things typically use. These also share the problem with nuclear energy of government subsidies holding them down.

Even if society returned to pre-industrial levels (something I'd accept better than most), we'd be cutting down forests and burning wood and coal. Without killing off most of the people on Earth-- something I'm against-- there is no better way yet discovered to reduce environmental impact than to use more nuclear energy. I just wish it could be done wisely-- leaving government and politicians out of the discussion.

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